Suckermouth Catfish: Pterygoplichthy multiradiatus
All three suckermouth catfishes (family Loricariidae) in Florida
have rows of bony plates covering all but their belly area. Sailfin
catfish are distinguished by worm-like pattern of dark markings on
the head over a dark-golden background; pectoral fins stout with
rough surfaces resembling course sandpaper; disc-like, protrusible
mouth is under the head, and used like a suction cup to attach and
feed on algae; females tend to be smaller, and fish larger than 18
inches probably males; lifeless and hollowed-out 'armored' bodies
sometimes seen on canal and lake banks
Vermiculated sailfin (Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus) and
suckermouth catfish (Hypostomus sp) are also found in Florida (see
image of a Hypostomus to right); vermiculated sailfin catfish (see
image below and to left) have worm-like markings similar to but
generally bolder than sailfin catfish which is the easiest way to
distinguish these two species; suckermouth catfish (see image to
right) is a shorter, stouter fish (maximum size less than 17
inches); has a pattern of black spots on head and less than 10
dorsal fin rays while other loricariids in Florida have 10 or more
dorsal fin rays and worm-like markings on head.
The sailfin catfish is by far the most successful, abundant, and
widespread loricariid in Florida, and is found throughout central
and south Florida. Although the suckermouth catfish (Hypostomus
sp.) has been in Florida since the 1950s, it is not widespread,
being found primarily in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties. The
vermiculated catfish is occasionally found in central Florida,
including Six-Mile Creek in Hillsborough County and the St. John's
River. Native range for all loricariids is South America.
Sailfin catfish live in nearly any type of slow moving streams,
canals, ponds, and lakes; and are normally most abundant along the
shore and in shallower waters. They are known to create spawning
burrows along shorelines, sometimes undermining canal banks and
lake shorelines. Little is known about the vermiculated sailfin's
specific habitat preferences; poor success of suckermouth catfish
to date indicates it is less well adapted to Florida waters than
are the sailfins.
Spawning Habitats: Male and
females start maturing when 13 and 11 inches long; female lays
about 2,000 eggs in shoreline burrows, holes, or crevices generally
between April and September; nests guarded until eggs hatch;
adhesive eggs clump together in masses; egg masses are sometimes
collected from the wild, aerated, hatched, and grown on tropical
fish farms for sale in the pet industry.
Feeding Habits: 100% of stomachs
that were examined contained detritus, and most also contained
algae, sand, small freshwater bivalves, water fleas, and decaying
matter; most active around dusk when root around bottom looking for
worms and insect larvae; sucker-like mouth used to scrape algae
from stones and other surfaces with their spoon shaped teeth.
Age and Growth:
Grow to more than 20 inches and weights of 3.0 pounds.
None; no bag or size limits
Fair to good, but difficult to clean and best to cook 'in the
shell,' after which the white flaky meat can be slid out.
Fishing Tips and Facts: